Shrouded in

The vexing ow three years since aircraft,” investigators and relatives of
Malaysia Airlines flight those on board 9M-MRO continue to
disappearance of MH370 vanished during look for answers.
a Malaysia Airlines a scheduled flight from
Kuala Lumpur to Beijing,
Voice370, a support group for family
members, expressed its disappoint-
Boeing 777 in 2014 investigators remain no closer to ment at the decision: “Commercial
spawned a book, establishing how the Boeing 777
disappeared, or indeed its final
planes cannot just be allowed to
disappear without a trace,” the
bizarre theories resting place. statement said. “Stopping at
On January 17, the Joint Agency this stage is nothing short
and led to a £100m Coordination Center (JACC) in of irresponsible, and
search. Aviation Australia, in agreement with the betrays a shock-
governments of Malaysia and China, ing lack of faith
security analyst agreed to suspend the search for the in the data,
Mark Carolla missing jet after fruitlessly scouring a
46,000 sq mile (120,000m²) underwater
re-examines area in the southern Indian Ocean.
the case. However, while ministers reiterated
the search could resume “should
credible new information emerge
that can be used to identify
the specific location of the

Now three years on recommendations of an array of using the best science available, cut- method never previously used. This
since the disappearance official experts assembled by the ting-edge technology, as well as mod- narrowed down the possible crash site
of Malaysia Airlines
authorities themselves.” elling and advice from highly skilled to a vast tract of ocean, lying in one of
Boeing 777-2H6ER,
9M-MRO (c/n 28420), professionals who are the best in their the most remote places on earth with
investigators are still So Near, Yet So Far field, unfortunately, the search has not much of the seabed having never
to locate the jet’s Announcing its decision, the been able to locate the aircraft.” been mapped.
final resting place.
JACC said the suspension “has not Investigators have been repeatedly By its own admission, the JACC said
SANDRO KOSTER been taken lightly nor without sad- thwarted in their bid to find the 777. a subsequent review of the data used
ness”. It added: “Despite every effort This included erroneous underwater to estimate the crash site, combined
signals wrongly thought to be from the with new information on ocean
aircraft’s black boxes, possible debris currents, gave a strong indication
fields, oil slicks and even a large the 777 actually lies in a 9,700sq mile
object detected on the seabed (25,123km²) area to the north of the
that turned out to be an old search zone. It added, however, that
shipwreck. the analysis was not precise enough to
Several pieces of justify extending the hunt.
debris independent-
ly verified to be from Conflicting Claims
the missing jet have Based on his study of one piece of
washed ashore on debris found on Reunion, aviation safe-
the east and south ty investigator and former head of the
coasts of Africa, Canadian Transportation Safety Board
the east coast of Larry Vance suggested MH370 had
Madagascar and concluded with controlled flight into
on the islands of the sea. Speaking to Australian media
Mauritius, Reunion last August, he said damage to the fla-
and Rodriguez. peron (part of the wing control service
Based on ocean that acts as a flap and aileron) indicated
currents, this is it had been “deployed” at the time of the
consistent with crash. This, he added, would have been
the notion the jet possible only if the pilots were con-
crashed into the Indian scious and in control of the jet.
Ocean around 1,100 This went against speculation the
miles (1,770km) west of jet had either exploded in the air, or
Australia, but this in itself is had crashed into the sea. It was also
a source of contention. at odds with the Australian Transport
Lacking any solid leads, the Safety Bureau (ATSB), which analysed
search area was calculated on the 20 pieces of debris – including the fla-
basis of automated transmissions peron – all believed to have come from
between the aircraft and a satellite – a the 777.

“Commercial planes
cannot just be allowed
to disappear without
a trace...”
Voice370 25
LEFT • Satellite imagery
In its 27-page report issued last taken shortly after MH370
November, the authority concluded went missing showed
the damage to the underwing tracks floating debris initially
suspected to be from
and fibreglass seals was consistent
the aircraft. AUSTRALIAN
with the flaps being “most likely” MARITIME SAFETY AUTHORITY
retracted when the aircraft entered
the water. RIGHT • The Indian Ocean
as seen from the
Peter Foley, ATSB’s director of search specialist survey ship
operations for MH370 added: “…[this] ‘Fugro Discovery’ during
means the aircraft wasn’t configured for its hunt for MH370.
a landing or a ditching. You can draw Authorities have indicated
the search may resume
your own conclusions as to whether that should credible new
means someone was in control.” information emerge, but
it is possible the aircraft
Rumours and Hearsay may never be found.
In the absence of any concrete
evidence – the airframe and black LEFT • Lacking any
boxes have not been recovered and solid leads, the search
area was calculated
onboard systems that would have
on the basis of auto-
offered a more precise location were mated transmissions
deactivated, disabled or destroyed early between the aircraft
in the flight – rumours remain rife and a satellite. This
placed the aircraft on
about the fate of the jet. one of two ‘corridors’
It has also drawn speculation about – a northern route
potential motives behind the 777’s from Thailand to the
disappearance. Neither hypothesis border of Kazakhstan
and Turkmenistan,
proffered by Vance or the ATSB and a southern route
rule out a scenario similar to that of from Indonesia to the
Germanwings Flight 9525 (see Airliner southern Indian Ocean.
World, September 2016). The
concept of pilot murder-suicide, BELOW • The search for
although rare, was proven on March MH370 was the most
24, 2015 when Airbus A320-211 D-AIPX expensive in the his-
tory of aviation, utilising
(c/n 147) crashed into the French Alps airborne and seaborne
62 miles (100km) north of Nice with assets from a host of dif-
the loss of all 150 passengers and crew. ferent nations including
Lockheed AP-3C Orions
The subsequent investigation deter- of the Royal Australian
mined the aircraft had been deliber- Air Force. AUSTRALIAN
ately flown into the ground by First DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE

Vance still strongly
believes MH370
remains intact but
at the bottom of the
Indian Ocean.

BELOW • Another piece of Officer Andreas Lubitz, who had been MH370 could have been either and a few circumstantial facts which
wreckage, discovered previously treated for mental health deliberately ditched or flown until it some wish to string together to make a
on Pemba Island,
Zanzibar last June, issues including severe depression and ran out of fuel. The most compelling case against the pilots”.
is examined by ATSB anxiety and had been declared unfit circumstantial data to support this Despite the uncertainty, Vance still
investigators. It was for work by two different doctors in the notion includes evidence uncovered strongly believes MH370 remains
later identified as the months leading up to the accident. by the US FBI and Australian authori- intact but at the bottom of the Indian
inboard section of a
Boeing 777 right out- The ideas proposed by Vance and ties and made public by New York Ocean. This is based on the fact no
board flap – several the ATSB, though not entirely in magazine via confidential police life vests, baggage or other such flot-
part numbers linked agreement, are based on seemingly documents that the aircraft captain, sam has ever been recovered, despite
this to the missing
solid forensic evidence and have Zaharie Ahmad Shah, simulated a the most expensive search in avia-
given impetus to the suspicion that flight into the southern Indian Ocean tion history.
on his home computer less than a The possibility that the Malaysian
month before the 777’s disappearance. Government, or even a private
Although his route was similar, it was investor, may provide additional
not identical – is this confirmation of funding to resume the hunt for the
premeditated action, or simply missing aircraft remains a possibility,
coincidence? but with every day that passes the
Richard Quest, aviation corre- likelihood of uncovering 9M-MRO
spondent for CNN and author of The decreases. Until the wreckage is
Vanishing of Flight MH370, argues the found, MH370 will remain, like the
latter. He suggests there is no real disappearance of Amelia Earhart
evidence of interference from the crew almost seven decades earlier, one of
save for “a few rumours, a bit of gossip aviation’s unsolved mysteries.

A barnacle-encrusted
piece of debris,
adorned with the Rolls-
Royce logo is believed
to be from MH370.

The eventual underwater
search area for MH370
spanned 46,000 sq miles
(120,000km²) of the
southern Indian Ocean,
one of the most remote
regions on the globe. 27